42 might be the answer to life, the universe, and everything, but it’s sure not the answer to our withdrawal from baseball. The drought continues apace.
If you’ve listened at all to Gateway to Baseball Heaven or you follow my co-host Tara Wellman on any sort of social media, you know about the conflict between the major leagues and the minor leagues over the renewal of the agreement between the two. MLB is looking to reduce the number of teams and, of course, MiLB isn’t real excited about that. The problem is that the cut list isn’t always teams that have bad facilities or teams that aren’t supported. They just seem to be teams that MLB doesn’t want at the lower levels.
There’s been a lot of resistance to that by the minor leagues throughout the whole thing but with a season almost certainly to be completely wiped out–none of these quarantined teams plans have any facet for minor league baseball–it sounds like MiLB might be about to capitulate. They put out a brave statement after this report was first released, but it seems like that is more about trying to come up with the best possible outcome for all their member teams.
(I haven’t had a chance to get far into it yet, but Tara and Kyle Reis get into the whole thing on the latest Chirps podcast, which you should download if you are at all interested in the topic.)
This is, of course, not a good thing. More baseball is better. However, if the two sides are able to come up with some sort of solid organization for these teams that are missing out, can it be OK?
The smaller the town is, the more embedded their team is in the fabric of their community. So losing the team entirely would be a very bad thing. I do wonder, though, if the appeal is going to the games, watching the players, getting invested in them. In other words, while I am sure there’s a sense of pride when someone that was at Johnson City makes it up to the majors, that’s only a small part of why people go to Johnson City Cardinals games. Even if you sever that direct connection, it’s possible that people will still be involved and excited about baseball in their town.
I mean, we’ve seen the St. Paul Saints be so great about getting their attendance and having a devoted fan base and they haven’t had a MLB affiliation. So it’s possible. Maybe a good organization that emphasizes local rivalries would help as well. Plus I’m sure that major league teams will still take players off of those teams, they just can pick from all of them rather than their own.
There are problems, of course. These teams are going to, I would guess, have to pay their players now where they haven’t before. Which cuts into what is probably already a very slim profit margin, not even accounting for how much local businesses are probably going to have to pull their sponsorships after this economic downturn.
All in all, the current system would be better. MLB is trying to be penny-wise and pound-foolish and succeeding very well, it seems. Instead of trying to help out these teams that are going to be really hurting due to the pandemic, they are using the coronavirus as a way to put the MiLB under their heel. It’s a sad situation and while baseball may go on, and teams may still exist, it’s not going to be the same and there’s really no good reason that is isn’t.